she wasn’t too old; i don’t think she would have been over 50, but she looked at least a dozen years older. if you went by her frail body and the wrinkles on her skin; the numerous creases not stopping the streams of sweat that were flowing down her face. it is getting warmer these days, no doubt, and she also looked like she’d been in the sun long enough. her lips were dry, and she was trembling almost violently. i suspect it was fatugue and dehydration. she held a shaky palm out, apparently seeking alms, a picture not uncommon in the merciless city. ironically, it was outside one of the expensive restaurants, where people were stepping out after having paid fat sums of money for an elaborate meal in the comfort of air conditioning.
i usually don’t hesitate to part with what i have. i don’t subsribe to the logic that begging is a trade, and that beggars earn more than many of us, and other such ridiculous propositions. and even if it were true, i’d still want to give. for isn’t giving a privilege that not many get? my belief is that it is He who gives, but we, with our inflated egos assume the elevated stance of believing we are givers, whereas in truth, we’re just agents, middlemen, if i may call it that at the risk of sounding crude.
i don’t know why, but in this instance, giving didn’t occur to me initially. almost impulsively, i grabbed hold of her shivering hand with both my palms, i held it tight for a moment, and i asked her, “why are you standing here right under the sun?”
“i need to find some money, else i’ll starve. i’m not going to ear a few rupees by sitting under the shade”, she said.
i cast my eyes downward, to notice the bear minimum shadows cast by the sun right on top of our heads at noon time. my grip around her hand tightens, as i left my gaze to meet her expectant eyes. and i break out of my own thoughts. i empty out all the change i have, add more, and hand it over to her. if you’ve noticed most of them, they usually tend to inspect and count their ‘prize’ immediately. this lady, she didn’t count, as she accepted the money, it was her turn to grab hold of my hand.
tears are streaming down her cheeks now.
“where do you belong?”, i ask her.
“here, i have nobody, my son has thrown my out of the house and refuses to take care of me”, her voice sounding raspy, owing to a parched throat. as she spoke, she was looking at me, straight in the eye. a look that asked a thousand questions that i dare not even think about, let alone possibly answer. a look that is going to take me a while to forget.
not knowing what else to do, i moved close to her, and hugged her. we stayed there that way, for a few moments, before i abruptly released myself of her embrace and moved away, not looking back at her or the passers by who were doubtless casting glances our way.